The draft is still a long way off, with the entirety of a college/high-school season between now and then, so trying to decide who will be the #1 pick, is about the equivalent of choosing the 2015 Rookie of the Year, right now. As a cautionary tale, at this point last year, the clear top pick was Carlos Roden, who ended up going third. For, over the next eight-plus months, stars will rise, talent blossom and UCL's encounter Dr. James Andrews. But, with Arizona getting their pick of absolutely anyone they want, for the first time in a decade, it's never too early to start becoming familiar with the names you'll be hearing about, over the next eight months.
2015 draft overview
The general consensus is... Well, that there is no general consensus, as far as the top overall player. It also seems, at this point, to be fairly shallow, which would mean that getting an early pick becomes increasingly vital. Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs writes, "The top 3 players are a tier and then the players right behind them would usually be around 10th in most classes. There’s still plenty of time for new players to emerge or known players to get better, but at this point things are a little light."
Adding to the volatility, the status of Brady Aiken remains uncertain. Chosen by the Astros with last year's first overall pick, much like Barrett Loux in 2010, medical concerns brought negotiations to a screeching halt - Houston apparently found abnormalities in his elbow ligament during an MRI, and slashed their offer as a result. The July 18 signing deadline came and went without a deal being reached, and despite hopes of a post-deadline agreement, nothing has been heard for the past month. The Astros, as compensation, will get the #2 pick in 2015, but it's not clear whether Aiken will be eligible again come June. Given the health question, I doubt we'll be interested at #1.
So, who else is there?
Michael Matuella, RHP, Duke
At 6'6" and 225lb, Matuella is generally regarded as the best pitching prospect, and enjoyed success as a sophomore, posting a sub-three ERA over 58.1 innings, with 69 K's. He did miss a month with a lat strain, which also caused his pitch count to be limited thereafter. But it shouldn't be a long-term issue, and when healthy he was impressive, regularly touching 97 mph with his fastball, and spotting it with precision. This is his main pitch, complemented by a 12-6 curveball which appears a recent addition to his arsenal. "He was basically a two-pitch pitcher last year with the cutter/slider and a pretty flat fastball," Duke coach Chris Pollard said.
Matuella also switched from a four-seam fastball. The pitcher said, "I exclusively throw my two-seam now. I talked to coaches about the transition from a four-seamer to a two-seamer in the fall. I thought there is no reason for me to throw a four-seam if I can get the movement and locate the two-seamer to both sides of the plate. My two-seamer allows me to get away with more misses and I can keep the ball off the barrel." McDaniel reckons, "When scouts get first looks at him this fall and early in the spring, they’re going to like what they see and if he can stay healthy until draft day with the stuff I saw, he’s a legit 1/1 threat."
Daz Cameron, CF, Eagle’s Landing HS (GA)
The name might be familiar, because this is the son of Mike Cameron, 17-season major leaguer. Cameron is getting serious hype as perhaps the best high-school player available, with some mock drafts having him go at the top spot. Of course, it would not be the first time the Diamondbacks used the #1 overall pick to select a position player out of high-school, it being exactly what they did in 2005, selecting Justin Upton, alongside whom Cameron has been mentioned.
Cameron took part in the Under Armour All-American Game at Wrigley in August, and Dan Kirby of Through The Fence Baseball wrote, "Cameron has all the tools and makes the game look incredibly easy with his athleticism and instincts... He will stick at center field and his arm continues to get stronger as he has been clocked at 91 mph from the outfield with accuracy. He has plus speed (6.61/60) and his bat speed is electric. The 6’-1", 185 pound right-hander will gain more power as he matures and he has superstar written all over him." Not everyone is quite as high, however, and much will depend on how he develops this winter.
Alex Bregman, SS, LSU
Yeah, insert "all the shortstops!" comment here. Get it out of your system. If the Diamondbacks want a position player nearer being ready for the majors, Bregman might be the way to go, though there is some chatter which suggests a move to second-base may be in his future. He did suffer a bit of a sophomore slump, his OPS dropping from .963 to .852, but over the two seasons, he has walked more than he has struck out. He probably won't hit for enormous power, being lightly-built at 180 lbs, but his other tools are all above average, and his character seems impeccable, one writer gushing, "you aren’t going to find a better leader and person out there — on and off the field."
Nathan Kirby, LHP, Virginia
Kirby's stock rose dramatically this year, after an outstanding sophomore campaign, highlighted by an 18-strikeout no-hitter of Pittsburgh in April, including ten straight K's at one point. He was named ACC co-Pitcher of the Year, after going 8-1 with a 1.58 ERA in 85.1 innings of work. His curveball is outstanding, and his fastball is 91-94 with plenty of life, combining to give him what some call "the best swing-and-miss stuff in the 2015 MLB draft." One curiosity: he could have been eligible for the 2012 draft, but "elected not to participate in the medical and drug programs that are required by Major League Baseball". Bonus points for having a great Twitter handle, @KirbStompXXX.
Brendan Rodgers, SS, Lake Mary HS (FL)
And finally... Yes, another shortstop, this one being McDaniel's choice for the best player at this point. He writes, "Some scouts aren’t ready to anoint him the top prospect in the land yet because he doesn’t "look like that type," which is basically code for an average running white shortstop isn’t supposed to go 1/1," and adds "the 2015 class is shallow up top, so Rodgers belongs somewhere close to #1 if he isn’t the best player right now." It's not just McDaniel, Kirby calling Rodgers "a terrific athlete and a gifted defender, which will allow him to stick at a premium position at the next level. Offensively, he has great power potential, as well as a mature approach at the plate."
Again: this is very early in the process - but if it turns out as well as the last time we had the top pick, we should do okay. Roll on, June 8!